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Rev. Charles P. Lucas, Jr., President, and Members, Board of Trustees Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority and Residents of Cuyahoga County, Ohio:

It is a pleasure to submit to you the Comprehensive Annual Financial Report (CAFR) of the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority (“GCRTA” or “Authority”) for the years ended December 31, 2020 and 2019. This is the thirty-third such report issued by GCRTA. In the first year, there was no GFOA Certification. It has become the standard format used in presenting the results of the Authority's operations, financial position, cash flows and related statistical information.

Management assumes full responsibility for the completeness and reliability of the information contained in this report, based upon a comprehensive framework of internal control that has been established for this purpose. Because the cost of internal control should not exceed anticipated benefits, the objective is to provide reasonable, rather than absolute, assurance that the financial statements are free of any material misstatements.

Keith Faber, Auditor of State of Ohio, has issued an unmodified opinion on the Authority’s financial statements for the years ended December 31, 2020 and 2019. The Independent Auditor’s Report is located at the front of the financial section of this report.

The independent audit of the Authority's financial statements was part of a broader federally mandated "Single Audit", designed to meet the special needs of federal grantor agencies. The stndards governing the engagements require the independent auditor to report not only on the fair presentation of the financial statements, but also on the internal controls and compliance with legal requirements of federal awards. These reports are available in the separately issued Single Audit Report and show that the authority is in full compliance with these requirements.

Management’s discussion and analysis (MD&A) immediately follows the independent auditor’s report and provides a narrative introduction, overview, and analysis of the basic financial statements. MD&A complements this letter of transmittal and should be read in conjunction with it.

GCRTA takes great pride in the fact that each of the previously issued Comprehensive Annual Financial Reports earned the recognition of the Government Finance Officers Association ("GFOA") in the form of its Certificate of Achievement for Excellence in Financial Reporting. This award evidences the fact that the previous CAFRs complied with stringent GFOA standards for professional financial reporting. GCRTA was the first public transit agency in Ohio to earn this important recognition and has consistently done so since 1988.

The Authority also submits its annual operating and capital budgets to the GFOA and has been doing so since 1990. Each of these budget documents has won the Distinguished Budget Presentation Award, having satisfied the most stringent program criteria and proven its value as (1) a policy document, (2) an operations guide, (3) a financial plan, and (4) a communication device.

PROFILE OF GOVERNMENT AND REPORTING ENTITY

The Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority ("GCRTA" or "Authority") is an independent political subdivision of the State of Ohio. It was created in December 1974 by ordinance of the City of Cleveland, Ohio, and by resolution of the Board of County Commissioners of Cuyahoga County, Ohio. Operations at GCRTA began in September 1975. The Authority provides virtually all mass transportation within the County. It is a multimodal system delivering bus, paratransit, heavy rail, light rail and bus rapid transit services.

A ten-member Board of Trustees (Board) establishes policy and sets direction for the management of the GCRTA. Four of the members are appointed by the Mayor of Cleveland with the consent of City Council; three members, one of whom must reside in the City of Cleveland, are appointed by the Cuyahoga County Executive; the remaining three members are elected by suburban mayors, city managers, and township trustees. Board members serve overlapping three-year terms. Under the provisions of General Accounting Standards Board (“GASB”) Statement No. 61, the Authority is considered to be a jointly governed organization.

Responsibility for the line administration rests with India L. Birdsong, the General Manager/Chief Executive Officer (CEO). She supervises the Chief Operating Officer (COO)/Deputy General Manager-Operations, and six Deputy General Managers who head the Finance, Engineering & Project Management, Legal Affairs, Human Resources, Administration & External Affairs, and Innovation & Technology divisions.The Internal Audit Department reports to the Board of Trustees and maintains a close working relationship with the General Manager. An organizational chart, which depicts these relationships, follows later in this introductory section.

The Authority had 2,077 employees as of December 31, 2020. The system delivered 12.6 million revenue miles of bus service and 3.2 million revenue miles on its heavy and light rail systems. The active service fleet was composed of 387 motor bus coaches, 52 heavy rail cars, 40 light rail cars, and 80 Paratransit vehicles.

The annual cash-basis operating budget is proposed by management, at the division and department levels, and adopted by the Board of Trustees after public discussion. The budget for each division and department is represented by appropriation. The Board must approve any increase in the total Authority appropriations. The General Manager must approve any inter-divisional budget transfers. The appropriate Deputy General Manager may modify appropriations to applicable departments within a division and to accounts within a department.

Budgetary control is maintained at the department level. It is the responsibility of each department to administer its operations in such a manner as to ensure that the use of funds is  consistent with the goals and programs authorized by the Board of Trustees. The Authority also maintains an encumbrance accounting system for budgetary control. Unencumbered appropriations lapse at year-end. Encumbered appropriation balances are carried forward to the succeeding year and need not be reauthorized.

ECONOMIC CONDITION AND OUTLOOK

The Authority's service area is contiguous with the boundaries of Cuyahoga County, Ohio. The County includes the City of Cleveland, two townships, and fifty-six other jurisdictions. This is the largest metropolitan area in Ohio and one of the largest counties in the United States. The population of this area is approximately 1.24 million people.

Historically, the foundation for Greater Cleveland's economic vitality had been heavy industry with the largest employment sector being manufacturing. The largest employment areas in 2020 were in the following industries:

  • Healthcare/Education
  • Professional/Business services
  • Government
  • Insurance
  • Trade/Transportation/Utilities

Real property, consisting of agricultural, commercial, industrial, and residential real property is reappraised every six years. The current assessed value is estimated to be $30.8 billion. This process is the foundation for property taxation, and it sets the debt limitation for the Authority.

CURRENT YEAR REVIEW

In 2020, the Authority navigated through the COVID-19 pandemic. As an essential servide, GCRTA provided a vital public service that connected customers to medical appointments, pharmacies, grocery stores, and essential jobs. The Authority continued its pursuit to provide Greater Clevelanders with unparalleled connectivity, along with high quality service design and delivery.

This included:

  • Strategically planning for the use of approximately $112 million of Coronavirus Relief, Economic Security (CARES) Act funding. 
  • Balancing the need for continues services despite ridership decreasing by approximately 50% during the pandemic.
  • Reducing the All-Day Pass to $5 as recommended in the Fare Equity and System Redesign Studies.
  • Continuing the focus on improving the overall State of Good Repair (SOGR) of the assets and infrastructure, including a commitment to replace the aging rail fleet.

During 2020, RTA:

  • Received the Distinguished Budget Presentation Award from the Government
    Finance Officers Association (GFOA) of the United States and Canada.
  • Created Wi-Fi Hot Spots at a number of stations including Stephanie Tubbs Jones Transit Center, East 55th, Southgate, Cedar - University Rapid Station and bus waiting area, Windermere Transit Center, and Tower City. These Hot Spots provided free Wi-Fi to our customers and enable students to log into their school sessions for virtual classrooms.
  • Completed several rail and station improvement projects.

PRESENT AND FUTURE PLANS

Present and future plans include:

  • Strategically planning for the use of $67.42 million of Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act (CRRSAA) funding.
  • Strategically planning for the use of approximately $136.01 million of American Rescue Plan (ARP) funding.
  • Implementing the recommendations from the Fare Equity Study.
  • Implementing the NEXT GEN System Redesign, which provides greater frequency and connectivty for bus riders across Cuyahoga County, adopting the recommendations from the System Redesign study.
  • Executing plans to replace buses and trains that have surpassed their useful life.
  • Completing the construction on the Triskett Garage CNG Facility upgrades.
  • Completing the construction of the Cuyahoga Viaduct Rehabilitation - Phase I.
  • Completing the construction of the Red Line Fiber Optic System replacement.
  • Completing the construction of the East 79th Street Station ADA reconstruction (Opportunity Corridor).
  • Completing work on the 25Connect project, which focuses on the future of the West 25th Street Corridor.
  • Planning for the Railcar replacement and reviewing rail related infrastructure improvements.

CAPITAL IMPROVEMENT PLAN

The development of the 2021 budget included preparation of a five-year Capital Improvement Plan (“CIP”). This document is an outline for rebuilding and expanding services by the Authority through the end of 2025. Totaling $576.28 million, the CIP constitutes a significant public works effort aimed at remaking the transit network and positioning the Authority, not just for the short-term, but also for the long-term future.

Significant capital improvements planned for the five-year period include:

Rail Car Replacement Program - $160.25 million

This project is to replace the aging life of the heavy and light railcars.

Bus Improvement Program, Equipment & Vehicles - $125.43 million

The useful life of a standard bus, as defined by the Federal Transit Administration ("FTA"), is twelve years, or five hundred thousand miles. The Authority is aggressively reducing its fleet's average age by replacing its oldest vehicles.

Rail Projects - $118.00 million

This commitment of funds includes the replacement of several substations, stations and track rehabilitation, bridges, train control systems, rail vehicles overhaul, signage and rail expansion.

Operating Expenses and Other Expenses - $84.00 million

Certain operating costs are budgeted as capital items as designated by the Federal Transportation Administration (FTA) or the State government, to be incurred over the next several years, and are reimbursable by the Federal and State governments totaling $84 million. These costs are recorded as operating costs in the enclosed financial statments.

Bridge Rehabilitation and Other Facility Improvements - $73.69 million

Funding has been provided for the rehabilitation of track bridges and includes State of Good Repair projects and other facility improvements.

Local Capital Projects - $16.75 million

Routine Capital Projects are typically equipment requested by various departments and not funded through grants. Asset Maintenance funds are used to maintain, rehabilitate, replace, or construct assets of a smaller scope or cost than those typically supported with grants. These projects are authorized within the Authority’s Capital Fund and are supported with annual allocations of sales tax receipts.

Other Projects - $13.41 million

Other projects include various transportation studies depending upon the availability of grant funds.

OTHER INFORMATION

Certificate of Achievement for Financial Reporting

It is management's intention to submit this and future CAFRs to the Government Finance Officers Association of the United States and Canada for review under its Certificate of Achievement for Excellence in Financial Reporting Program. We believe the current report conforms to the program requirements, and we expect that participation will result in improvements to our reports in coming years.

Acknowledgements

The GCRTA expresses thanks to the staff of the Accounting Department directed by John Togher for their work in preparing this report. David Pfeiffer, Mamadou Ndour, David Reynolds, Michael So, Zardik Haruthunian, and Cora Vlacovsky assisted with this report. In addition, appreciation goes out to the Cuyahoga County Fiscal Officer for providing supporting demographics and other statistics.

Floun'say R. CAver, Ph.D
Acting General Manager/CEO

Rajan D. Gautam, CPA
Deputy General Manager,
Finance

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